The easing of COVID-19 restrictions across Canada has been met with mixed responses by individuals and organizations at a group level alike. While some have been more than happy to rip off their masks and breathe in the fresh air, many have remained cautious. This has presented a bit of a balancing act for HR teams and employers as they make efforts to transition to full operations, a greater workforce, and away from remote work.
Lifting of Mask Mandates is the #NewNormalWorkplace
The fact remains that while world events have distracted from a seemingly dwindling pandemic, sub-variants have still been circulating. It’s a place people have been before—wondering if and when to call it over, and whether or not to get their hopes up that a post-pandemic is truly here. With that in mind, HR managers and employers who are making workplace safety policies would be wise to remain cautious over the course of the next few months.
A new trending hashtag on social media may be indicative of the “new normal” workplace — including accommodating the differences diplomatically in the workplace. The hashtag is #NewNormalWorkplace on social media. Everything from new equipment to hybrid workplaces, to managing teams in a post-covid reality, is being posted under this hashtag.
There is another consideration that HR managers and employers in charge of policies need to make during this transition (hopefully) out of the pandemic. The pandemic, vaccinations, and mandates have been extremely politicized and the effects of that—combined with the strain everybody has been feeling—have been polarizing.
To that end, policies where, for example, vaccinated employees are given exemptions from wearing masks can lead to division and conflict. The employer-employee relationship is not immune from these conflicts and the numbers back up the idea that it may indeed be among the most vulnerable.
Only 12% of Canadians who responded to a recent poll indicated that they would find a full return to work to be an ideal situation. Supporting this trend, 1 in 3 said that they would prefer to work from home at least 3 days per week.
Refusing to work?
The idea of refusing to work on occupational grounds has even come up, though unless an employee is able to prove that COVID-19 is currently present in the workplace a work refusal case would be difficult to sustain. There is, however, still an onus on employers to provide a safe workplace.
HR Managers tightrope
HR managers have something a tightrope to walk ahead of them. When faced with great challenges, however, is when people often come up with great solutions. One of these may lend itself from a practice that event planners used to help keep guests comfortable during pandemic get-togethers—when they were allowed to happen.
One UK firm has taken to using color-coded lanyards, allowing employees to signal what their comfort level is—is it appropriate to shake hands? This could help alleviate some of that workplace awkwardness.
While mask mandates may have lifted, they are still often recommended, and it should be generally accepted that social distancing is here to stay—for the foreseeable future. It’s a game of wait-and-see and to that end, it’s objectively better to remain safe than sorry, as far as liabilities are concerned.